Big Deal For Libya
The French websites and the world press have been full of commentary on the release of the five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor released from prison in Libya. If you are not familiar with the story, here are the opening paragraphs of an account from the International Herald Tribune:
SOFIA: After eight and a half years in captivity in Libya, five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor stepped off France's presidential plane here to freedom Tuesday morning, welcomed by tearful family members, Bulgaria's top officials and a presidential pardon.
They were accompanied by the two women who reached the final breakthrough with the Libyan leader, Muammar el-Qaddafi - France's first lady, Cécilia Sarkozy, and the European Union's foreign affairs commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
Sarkozy, who has said nothing publicly about her role in the negotiations, waved to journalists as she descended from the plane, putting her hand over her heart and mouthing "Merci."
"I still can't believe that I am standing on Bulgarian soil," Kristiana Valcheva, 48, one of the five nurses, told state Channel 1 television as the medical workers embraced their families. "I want my life to return to what it was before all this happened."
The medical workers' liberation brings to an end a bizarre and tortuous episode in Libya's recent history that tarnished its standing in the world. The conclusion opens the way to full political and economic rapprochement for Libya in the international community.
Despite proclamations of innocence and despite contrary evidence, the six medical workers had been convicted and condemned to death, accused of having deliberately infected hundreds of Libyan children with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Along the way, Qaddafi accused the nurses of acting on the orders of the CIA and Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad, calling their actions part of a plot to destabilize the Libyan state. The workers were allegedly tortured to extract confessions.
Bulgaria consistently said the medical workers were not guilty. Then, suddenly, days after their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment last week, they were allowed to leave Libya.
Their liberation is the result of an intense, three-year diplomatic process that the European Union began, that Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain and German officials moved forward and that the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Sarkozy's wife clinched. In the end, the rapport that Cécilia Sarkozy established with Qaddafi and his wife and daughter helped propel the outcome.
Read the rest of the article here.
While everyone is relieved that the nurses have been freed, the cost to France and to the EU will be prohibitive. In exchange for the release of the nurses millions will be paid for the treatment of the over 400 persons infected with the HIV virus.
According to Le Salon Beige the amount of 461 million dollars has been paid by the Qadhafi Foundation to the families of the victims. Qadhafi intends to get this money back through contributions from Qatar, the European Commission, the member states of the EU, including France, and the private sector. Between 2005 and 2007 Brussels poured 2.5 million euros into the renovation of the hospital in Benghazi where the contaminations occurred.
Furthermore Libya receives:
(...) greater access in the European markets for its exports, as well as technical and financial aid in the fields of archeology and restoration, equipment for the protection of Libyan borders, scholarships and training for Libyan students in European universities and Schengen visas for residents of the Great Jamahiriya.
Note: The visas allow freedom of movement in Europe. The Great Socialist Libyan People's Arab Jamahiriya is the official name of Libya.
But the most important result of this quid pro quo is that France will furnish Libya with a nuclear reactor. This information came to me a few hours ago via e-mail from Via-Resistancia, and as of now I cannot provide a link:
The shame of Sarkozy!
France will furnish Qadhafi's Libya with a nuclear reactor, ignoring the security of western Europe, ignoring human rights that are trampled upon daily by the regime in Tripoli and its true nature that resembles the regime in Tehran...
Normalization of relations is very promising for French businesses (oil, gas, nuclear, banking) in a country that is a major producer of hydrocarbons and that is opening its doors to investors in an attempt to catch up after a decade of embargo resulting from its implication in a series of anti-western attacks, most notably against an American airplane in Lockerbie (270 deaths in 1988) and a French plane over Niger (170 deaths in 1989).
Besides a military-industrial accord, Nicolas Sarkozy intends as well to initiate an "all points cooperation, in all domains" with Libya, a "strategic player" in the Mediterranean basin, announced his spokesman David Martinon on Wednesday.
Note: The spelling of Qadhafi's name varies greatly. I used that of the US State Department. The British often use Gaddafi. In the IHT article they chose Qaddafi.
Update July 26, 2:11 p.m. - Thanks to the reader that provided this link to the article on the nuclear reactor.